University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Potential Problem Trees

January 20, 2000

When considering any plant material to add to your landscape in 2000, do some research to make sure the choices are wise ones. This is especially true when choosing shade trees, which are expensive, long-term investments. Pay attention to Latin names (Genus & species) to assure you know exactly what a tree is.

While no tree is free of potential problems, there are some that are more prone to problems than others. Certainly these trees will grow here and may be a good fit for some situations. But be aware of potential problems that are common with certain species.

For example, poplars are advertised as fast growing trees, which they are, but they are not long-lived. This is true of many fast growing trees. Their best use is as a quick screen to be replaced by more desirable trees later.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) certainly is common around towns in the area. This type of maple has brittle wood, thus produces lots of litter on the ground. It also tends to be become hollow, has shallow roots that can ruin pavement, and is pest prone.

There are some popular attractive trees that are very pest prone, often making them of limited value in the landscape. A good example is Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) which is very susceptible to a canker disease that causes twig and branch dieback. Likewise, Mountain Ash (Sorbus species) can have several potential pest problems and is not a long-lived tree. Hot summers also are a problem.

White Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) are popular trees. Unfortunately, they also are very susceptible to an insect known as the bronze birch borer. ‘Whitespire’ is one cultivar of white-barked birch that has shown some resistance. An alternative is the River Birch, known as Betula nigra. This species has attractive features, and the cultivar ‘Heritage’ has very light colored bark.

Flowering Crabapple (Malus species) are widely used in landscapes. Crabapples can be excellent additions to a home landscape. If disease susceptible, however, some cultivars become very unsightly. Choose cultivars resistant to apple scab and cedar rust, two very common fungus diseases that can cause them to be defoliated by midsummer.

There are certainly many trees to choose from for the landscape, and even some of these can be good choices if used properly. Just be aware of what you're getting before investing in trees!


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